DIY Root Cellar
Considering that home refrigerators weren’t introduced until the 20th century, people who lived before then were always looking for ways to keep their summer produce fresh throughout the winter. That’s why the root cellar was so important.
The root cellar was a primary way of keeping produce fresh all winter back in the ‘old’ days. But, while technology has improved over the decades, root cellars are still used today.
Even better, there are more ways than ever to construct a root cellar and do-it-yourselfers everywhere are taking advantage by storing their produce in an old-fashioned way that’s still effective.
What is a Root Cellar?
A root cellar is technically any location that uses the earth’s natural cooling, humidifying, and insulating properties. A root cellar also needs proper ventilation – because some produce gives off ethylene gas, which speeds ripening – and kept dark because light can bleach the color and nutrients from food.
What’s a Good Location for a Root Cellar?
The best place for a root cellar is in an existing soil bank 10 to 20 yards from your house (that’s well-drained). If you’re installing a root cellar with a door, the door should face north to block the sun’s heat.
People today also use their basement for root cellars – by sectioning off a portion of the basement while making sure there’s enough ventilation – or, as mentioned, someplace in the exterior of the home.
Some DIY Root Cellar Ideas
When done properly, a root cellar will preserve food right through the winter. And, there is a variety of ideas for DIY root cellars, most of which are inexpensive and easy to install.
*Using a pail
You can easily create a root cellar by using a sunken steel or plastic garbage pail. You’ll need to punch holes in the bottom of the pail to allow for drainage, and cover it with straw or burlap for insulation. Bury the pail in your backyard or other suitable location near your house.
*Using a recycled freezer or refrigerator
Using an old freezer or fridge for a root cellar is a bit more complicated than using a pail and will require some research on your part – especially to learn how to keep Freon from leaking into the surrounding area. But there are many ways to do this safely.
*Pallet root cellar
Building a pallet root cellar is a job most do-it-yourselfers can handle and only takes a little time. First, collect several 4x4 pallets and dig a hole that several inches wider than the pallets. The hole should be deep enough that the top pallet is 6-inches below the ground.
One of the pallets is used as the ‘floor’ of the root cellar while the others will serve as the walls. Here are some detailed instructions.
*Digging a hole in the ground
Another root cellar option is to dig down into the ground or a hillside. The sandier the soil the better because this option requires proper drainage.
Make sure to flare the sides of your hole so it doesn’t cave in, and line it with straw or dried leaves. Cover it with a thick, wooden lid.
The above are just some of the ways that you can create your root cellar. No matter who it’s constructed, however, you’ll enjoy the convenience of food storage all winter long.